Category Archives: Blog

Kintraw Standing Stone

Kintraw Standing Stone West Coast of Scotland

As part of my mini road trip (described here) when driving from Oban to Kilmartin I stopped to pause at this fantastic standing stone at Kintraw.  I passed it two years ago, but given its situation, its very difficult to stop unless you are already slowing down for it before you see it (if that makes sense?). The Kintraw Standing Stone is flanked by at least two burial mounds (one of them a nice little kerbed cairn).  It is a great location with views out to sea and Jura beyond – maybe somewhat polluted with the marina and the boats berthed there.

Despite always traveling with “The Orange” book (Julian Cope’s “Modern Antiquarian”), I didn’t think to reach for it – and I wish I had.  The site, it has been deduced, was an astronomical site, with a viewing platform on the hill behind, where there was an alignment with the Kintraw Standing Stone and a clef in the hills over on the island of Jura and the solstice.   I wish I knew this, as that would have made for an interesting late morning potter around the hill side.

That said I did get the pinhole camera out and took a couple of exposures that I hope one will make its way in to my “Ties to the Land” project (http://tiestotheland.co.uk).

If this sort of thing floats your boat here are two references below:-

On wasting petrol (with apologies to Susan Sontag)

With the Bank Holiday upon us and the wife and kids off for the week with the Mother-in-Law, I had the weekend to myself.    Thoughts started about where I should go in the camper van (its working just now).  My first thought was for an epic trip up to Torridon in Scotland, but I don’t think my driving stamina would have got me that far (probably the central reservation of the A9!).  Then thoughts turned to the Lakes – of course what could be better – the English Lake District on a Bank holiday weekend!  So, thoughts turned back north again to Scotland with an “easy” drive to Inveroran on the edge of Rannoch Moor and near the well photographed Scots Pine trees at Loch Tulla.

After a challenging drive of some 6 and half hours I pulled in to the car park at Victoria Bridge.  The next day, the weather forecasters had promised mist, instead I got a very low cloud base and nothing of interest.  Not to be deterred, I pressed on from trying the “classic” (cliched)? pine shot to have a potter down Glen Etive.  (You may remember Mr Bond driving along it in his DB5 from “Skyfall”).  Glen Etive is not without its own cliches, including that infamous bike lying against a dilapidated shed (look it up on Flickr) (and yes I did take a photo as well).  I spent an hour or so down by the river side trying to take a shot of a captivating water fall against the back drop of a scots pine.  Further back up the road I have to admit I stopped to take “that” shot of the Buachaille Etive Mor by the water fall.  The area by the falls is like the Somme, it has been so well trodden by photographers over the years that it has turned in to a quagmire.

A key feature of this trip, despite driving on to Glen Coe,  Ballachulish (to look at the quarry), round via Appin to end back up in Glen Orchy all in one day – I took very few photographs.  I put this down to the weather, first it was too wet, then it got too bright.  By the last night, when I got to Tayvallich, I had the weather I wanted, overcast and damp – and then it hit me.  I think I’m going through some photographic block.  Everything around me was beautiful. The moss hanging from the oaks and birches,  the bluebells just coming in to bloom, detail in the bark and the reflections in the various pools in the bogs.  But none of it I felt was enough to make me reach for the my camera.  There were of course exceptions (and some of these are below), but more often than not on this trip the cameras stayed in the bag. As a consequence that is why I came home a day early – me kinda quitting whilst I’m ahead.  It was an enjoyable trip – I clocked up 966 miles in the process.  Pottering around without an agenda is fun, and I have found new places that I would like to go back to in the future – but on this occasion the omph, the desire to get the camera out the bag really wasn’t there.  I can’t really describe it any better than that and I’m not going to dwell on it too much as the trip wasn’t a wasted trip either.

One thing I did find myself thinking when the weather was particularity bad was that I wished I had packed my Hassleblad Xpan  (Its a panoramic camera that I usually load with black and white film) – I’m not sure what it is about that camera but it does lend itself to poor weather conditions.  Lesson learnt – pack it next time, just in case.

Anyway without further a do – here are the snaps I took.

(Don’t forget to like and share this post if you can :) )

 

 

How to get to Padley Gorge

A common search that appears in my site stats is “How to get to Padley Gorge” – that despite me not giving directions on how to get there on this site.  I am aim to put that right with this little article :)

Padley Gorge Burbage Brook and Bridge

Padley Gorge, Derbyshire Peak District

 

Padley Gorge is about 25 minutes by car from the centre of Sheffield and lies at the edge of Longshaw Estate in Derbyshire Peak District.  The map below gives you an idea of the area – you might need to scroll around a bit to see all the markers.

How to get to Padley Gorge by train

At the foot of Padley Gorge is Grindleford train station Marked 3 on the map).  Grindleford station is served by stopping trains from both Sheffield and Manchester.  For more information about trains , please click on this link to National Rail Enquiries.

Beech Tree, Padley Gorge

Above Padley Gorge, Derbyshire Peak District

How to get to Padley Gorge by car

There are a number of options when going to Padley Gorge.  You can park up at Surprise View Car Park, Marked 1 on the map,  (pay and display) and walk down through Bolehill Quarry and then walk up through Padley Gorge.  This is my preferred route, as it makes a good day out, that can either be completed by walking up through a trackway/holloway back to the Surprise View Car Park, or it can be extended by adding a loop walking through the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate and then walking up the trackway.  (Don’t forget to visit the tea room in the Longshaw Estate if you do!).

 

The other options are either to park at the top of Padley Gorge (Marked 2 on the map) – this can get quite busy – especially on hot summer’s days when Sheffield comes out to play in the Burbage Brook which waters the Gorge.  The other option is park at Grindleford station (Marked 3) on the map, there are a couple of parking bays at the station, and you can also park on the access road – just be careful not to park in the parking bays for the cafe unless you intend to visit there too.

Padley Gorge and Burbage Brook

 

Padely Gorge offers up many classic photographic opportunities as well as the chance to get away from the more obvious shots (see above!) and try something different.  You can see some of my other work here.

New Project – Limb Brook

I’ve started a new project over on my portfolio website (www.alastairrossphotography.co.uk) focusing on the Limb Brook – it is a stream that rises and ends within the boundaries of Sheffield, but in a past has served as the boundary between Yorkshire and Derbyshire and before that Mercia and Northumbria.  Its an unremarkable little stream, and by that very fact that I hope to push my photography out of my comfort zone and perhaps create something that is a little bit more challenging.

 

limb brook derbyshire peak district yorkshire border

Point of Departure – Limb Brook

Limb Brook, Ecclesall Woods

Limb Brook, Ecclesall Woods

Birch and Fungi, Limb Valley

Birch and Fungi, Limb Valley

You can see more from the start of this project by visiting – http://www.alastairrossphotography.co.uk/limb-brook/

Hot off the Scanner

A couple of new images from myself that I was scanning last night.  Three very different images , the first taken with Velvia, though I suspect I should have used Portra 160, the second taken using a long exposure and Velvia film and the other taken using Portra 160.

The first image I really want to like, but I’m not quite sure.  It was a very over cast and damp day and the sun wasn’t fully up yet. (And yes it is a bit noisey)

sea shell torridon scotland winter snow

Torridon Shell

 

long exposure river blurred motion velvia

Calm in Motion

 

The image below, which I’ve called “Point of Departure”, is the first in what I intend to be a small project based around charting the Limb Brook.  A small river that rises and ends within the city limits of Sheffield.  The Limb Brook used to be the border between Derbyshire and Yorkshire until recent times and before that I understand it was the border between Northumbria and Mercia.  The river rises near the hamlet of Ringinglow just inside the Sheffield boundary a few hundred yards from the Peak District and ends rather unceremoniously in the River Sheaf and in a mill pond at Millhouses in Sheffield.

limb brook derbyshire peak district yorkshire border

Point of Departure – Limb Brook

The Old and the New

Some old photographic work

It is always nice to revisit work, to see how you’ve progressed and sometimes shudder as you think “Did I really think that was good?”  But a bit of reflection is always good, as you see how your photographic style has matured and developed.

Flicking through my back catalog of images, and I came across one of the classic (cliche?) Duke of Portland’s Boat House on Ullswater in the Lake District of England. This was back in September 2010, when I first met Mark Littlejohn Photography, as he drove by complimenting me on getting the weather, drove off and then came walking back along the road camera and tripod in hand some minutes later.  I’ve revisited the photograph and cropped it square, as is my “thing” just now and hopefully I’ve been less heavy handed with processing, though I have split toned it slightly.  You can see my earlier treatment of  this classic boat house in the Lake District scene here (is this progression or not :) )

Duke of Portlands Boat House, lake district, boat house

Some new photographic work

I’ve also been working through my back catalog of scanning.  The image below taken of Liathach in Torridon, North West Scotland, was one that I wasn’t quite sure of at first.  I thought it was a bit stark (for want of a better term) and cool, but there was always that nagging suspicion that there was more to this photograph and it eventually grew on me.  The tree had intrigued me for a week, as we visited this spot a couple of times,  it was a solitary Scots Pine (only about 3 feet tall) amongst some light Silverbirch woodland, but I hadn’t found a composition that pleased me, until this shot.   Interestingly, whilst I use film most of the time, I do still tend to take more than one shot of a scene (just in case!) before moving on.  For this shot I took the one exposure and moved on.  Despite the movement, it is a calming scene I feel, and its mood/feeling I would like to re-create in future photography.

 

You can see more of my recent (and revisited) photography by visiting my portfolio site – www.alastairrossphotography.co.uk

Ob Mheallaidh and Liathach , snow, torridon, scotland, north west scotland

How to be a photographer, with a nod to Guy Tal

Scot Pine Roots

Scot Pine Roots, Shieldaig

 

How to be a Poet (to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill-more of each
than you have-inspiration
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity…

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensional life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.”

Wendell Berry

The American landscape photographer Guy Tal quoted this in part up on his Facebook page a couple of weeks ago.  I love the work of Guy Tal and his writings and have quoted him elsewhere on this site.  Photography comes across as being very meditative for him.

somewhere near kinlochewe

Somewhere near the A’ Ghairbhe, Torridon

 

The poem got me thinking, as it resonates so strongly for me.  But, at the same time there is a part if me that thinks “easier said than done”.  I’m writing this on my mobile phone in an acoustically deafening sports hall as my lad does indoor rugby training.  Every squeak of shoes on the sports hall floor, every blast of the coaches’ whistles, every bounce of someone sitting down hard on the bench jars me to my very core.  I want to explode.

There is always that internal discourse going on to put the phone down, turn off Twitter, stop looking at blogs.  How though, as someone more introvert than extrovert, do you learn, evolve and improve without the stimulus and feedback of those you find on line (and occasionally meet in real life!)?

I honestly don’t think that we can escape technology and it’s “progress”, but we can enjoy those quieter moments when they present themselves.  A couple of weeks ago I was away in Torridon, North West Scotland, on a workshop led by David Ward.   Nothing gave me greater pleasure than to lie in the snow, in the dampened silence, and look upon a scene and drink it in.  I didn’t always take a photograph – somethings don’t always transpose well I feel. (Sitting beside a roaring log fire, gazing into the flames and drinking a reasonable malt also gives me great pleasure I should add.)

What I have learnt, in retrospect, from being on the workshop, is that it is the quieter more intimate image and not the bigger classic landscape that gives me the most pleasure.  The subtlety of observation in the detail versus the need to get it all in – though there is enjoyment in taking them, there is just not as much.  No doubt I will post some of the classic landscapes I took on here in due course, but it will be the detailed images that will give me the most pleasure when I share them.

With photography it’s the quiet moments that it creates that are as much a part of my photographic practice as taking an exposure and pressing the cable release.  Moments of quiet in this hectic always on, always available, always contactable world, are valuable  and we should appreciate them when those moments present themselves.

Rydal Cave, The Lake District

Rydal Cave, The Lake District

Forever Autumn

We are, I guess, in the non-season between Autumn and Winter, where the trees are on the whole de-nuded of leaves, but its yet to be “properly” cold to have frost on the ground (well in South Yorkshire at least).

I started this Autumn thinking that I was going to miss it and all its glory, and I probably on the whole did  miss it, as the actual bit of Autumn where you have golden colours in the trees was very brief – not helped by some heavy rain and high winds which would have helped the leaves on their downward decent.  My biggest regret was that I didn’t get to visit a spot that I had reccied out in The Peaks during the summer that held a lot of potential.  This was further compounded by not being able to get to the Lake District this year for my usual camper van trip, as said camper van was broken :( (Its fixed now!)

That said I have, I feel, made the best of the time that I have had to get out in the Autumn and have created possibly the best photography of Autumn that I have to date.

 

Clumber Park

Clumber Park is a great location to visit with mixed woodland and a lake that usually has mist long after it has cleared from the surrounding country side.

 

Padley Gorge, Derbyshire Peak District

Padley Gorge in the Derbyshire Peak District (or Padleygeddon as I sometimes call it) is one of those classic Autumnal go to locations.  That said, for all its honey pot qualities, I always wonder how many great locations people drive past to come here in the Autumn that are closer to their homes (its 20 mins from my home).  I was only here for half a day at the very end of October and in Lower Padley, towards  Grindleford Station, the trees were bare.  Thankfully at the upper end of Padley Gorge there was still some colour where I got to use my Fujifilm Velvia 50 on and some Kodak Portra 160 as well.  I discuss using the two different films here.

 

Lady Canning’s Plantation, Sheffield

So instead of widening my horizons, I’m constricting them.  Lady Canning’s Plantation is on Ringinglow Road in Sheffield on the way out to Higger Tor in the Peak Distirct and can’t be more than 10 minutes drive from my house.  In fact the Peak District boundary is only a couple of hundred yards from this wood.  The wood is mainly of pine, but there are some deciduous areas near the main road which add to the place.

Weir, near Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire Peak District

A mention for Paul Newcombe, who shared this location on Flickr.  Its a lovely location, complete with three mills of varying types – you just need a smoke generator and it would be perfect (#joke!).  (also visiting a couple of weeks earlier would have been better too).

Weir on the River Wye, Derbyshire Peak District

The Truth of Colour at Padley Gorge

I’ve finally got round to scanning the films and negs that I took at Padley Gorge back at the very end of October.  One of the things that makes (I feel) using film more challenging (and rewarding) than digital is the difficulty of trying to get a good exposure, there is a degree of skill that needs to be acquired in order to use film properly.  I’m not for a moment suggesting that I have that skill, as I don’t get out often enough I think to keep my eye in and be confident about clicking the cable release once and moving on.

One of the things that is beginning to interest me is colour intent , or put another way what sort of feeling can be conveyed through the use of colour.  During my visit to Padley Gorge in the Derbyshire Peak District I took the opportunity to try Fujifilm Velvia 50 and Kodak Portra 160 on the same scene.  Fujifilm Velvia 50 is a very rich and saturated colour slide film, well suited to rich Autumnal scenes that are wet.  When using it, I try to keep all of the image within 4 stops.  Kodak Portra 160 is a colour negative film that offers (I feel) a very muted colour palatte and it offers a great deal of dynamic range.  When using it I tend to find the darkest area that I want detail in and then under expose by 2 stops. e.g. 1/15 becomes 1/60  and so on. (Thanks to Tim Parkin for that advice).

Below are two shots, one in Velvia and one in Portra, both taken at the same spot and cropped nearly the same.  I think the colour rendition is best summed up as one of them will make an ideal greetings card  and the other a good print.  I wouldn’t say that one is less “honest” than the other.  At present I think I have a “Velvia eye” and a “Portra eye” where I can approach a scene and decide which works best and under what conditions.

 

Padley Gorge Velvia 50

Padley Gorge Velvia 50

Padley Gorge Portra 160

Padley Gorge Porta 160

 

 

 

Location, Location, Location

As I type this, I should be in the Lake District, however due to a series of issues with my camper van I scratched that and spent the last couple of days turning the vegetable patch, doing daddy taxi service, planting onions and a variety of garlics and also going for the occasional short walk.  Enough about how I roll, you’re here the photography.

Today I visited a wood I haven’t visited before, its nine minutes from my home, its still inside the Sheffield City boundary, though not that far from the Peak District (about 50 yards!) and it was lovely and quiet.  The wood was a bit of an odd choice, as its a pine wood This is the time of year that I should be chasing down the last of the colour in the broad leaf woods in the Peak District, having not had much in the way of opportunities this Autumn to get out.  That said, I felt like a change, and having taken a long detour on the way home, there are still patches of colour in the woods in the more sheltered parts of Sheffield and the Peaks which should stand me in good stead for next weekend.

It was good to be challenged by a new location that I wasn’t familiar with.  The wood also was blessedly quiet and still, so it was ticking my boxes a lot.  The only complication at times was that it was rather sunny first thing this morning, but that issue soon sorted itself out :)  With the low Autumnal sun, it make for some interesting light when it did shine.

In my wanderings I came across some interesting graffiti cellophaned between the trees, off the beaten track and out of sight of any path – so unless you knew it was there or were like me wandering you’d never see it.  Quite interesting and very slightly erotic.

On the whole a very productive day, with a goodly number of rolls of 120 shot, including an old formulation Velvia 50 courtesy of Tim Parkin.